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Recruiting roundup: Smiley trending down, but another four-star trending up?

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Plus new offers to some intriguing defensive line targets

NCAA Football: Virginia vs Ohio Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers are sitting pretty with a 2-1 record so far in the 2018 season. But one of the biggest question marks remains the defensive line: how deep is the group, how talented is the top, and who’s waiting in the wings?

This week for the recruiting roundup, we’re leaning into the defensive line outlook for the class of 2019.

Smiley opens things back up

After several weeks of back-and-forth with UVA commit Ja’Quay Hubbard on Twitter—one of several indications Smiley was leaning toward being Charlottesville-bound—this dropped like an ossified turd from an airliner on Monday afternoon.

That’s, uh... NOT GREAT, BOB.

Defensive line is still a big need for the Hoos, and Smiley would definitely have a spot on the roster.

Nothing publicly obvious happened to swing things so dramatically away from the Hoos in recent days. But there are lots of rumors and plenty of speculation out there about what might have moved Smiley to open his options back up. I’m sure we’ll learn more in due time, so I’d encourage anyone considering trashing the young man to hold off before we have the full story. (And as always: never tweet at recruits.)

Hoos in the hunt for Hunter?

When one recruiting door closes, oft times another one opens. And there’s a nice big fella who just cracked his door open a bit for Virginia. Consensus four-star defensive end Derick Hunter, Jr. posted that he’d be taking five official visits: Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia—and UVA.

Hunter is teammates with current Virginia commits Seneca Milledge and Major Williams at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Florida. The 6-foot-4, 276-pound defensive end holds more than 40 offers and is nominally committed to Florida State; you’ll notice the Noles are not one of his official visits. All of the major services have Hunter in the top 50 recruits for 2019 coming out of talent-rich Florida. He would become UVA’s second highest rated commit behind defensive tackle Jowon Briggs.

Hunter visited Charlottesville in June, and Vic So’oto has proven himself to be among the Hoos’ best recruiters. Closing the deal with Hunter—who has announced his intention to sign during the early signing period—would be a huge coup for the Cavaliers.

Offers out to two high-upside prospects

Staying on the defensive line, Virginia has put out offers to two football newcomers that are rapidly gaining national attention.

The first is Smith Vilbert from New Jersey. At 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, Vilbert fits the “long and athletic” mold that Mendenhall has targeted for edge rushers: think Charles Snowden, but fifty pounds heavier coming out of high school. UVA got its offer in just after Oregon and right before Nebraska. Rutgers and UCF have also offered.

Virginia also offered Keith Randolph from Belleville, Illinois.

UVA’s competition for Randolph includes the hometown Illini, as well as Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota, and Boise State.

Either player—or both—would need a year or so to develop better technique and more game awareness before contributing at the Power Five level. But the ceiling for each of them is crazy high. As we’ve said before, this coaching staff excels at taking raw talent and coaching it into becoming disruptive defensive juggernauts. A strong season overall, with Snowden continuing to ball out in his second year, could put Virginia in a very good position with these two new offerees.

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